I attended as an appointed member. Fifteen of my neighbors were there as well (see roster below). Don't worry: we didn't impose a 50% water tax or hire a county septic tank inspector. Our committee doesn't have authority to impose anything, only propose.
Right now the committee is in planning stage. We need to get clear on our mission before we start lining up projects and resources to accomplish that mission. Defining that mission won't be too hard, since we have the prior work of the volunteer Interlakes Water Quality Committee on which to build. That group gathered years of data, identified nearly a hundred problem areas, and sketched perhaps a dozen projects that would benefit water quality around Lake County. Rather than reinvent the waterwheel, our committee plans to pick up as much as possible where IWQC left off.
What will we focus on? Martin Jarrett, committee chair, offered several goals: reduce phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment run-off; reduce algae blooms and bacteria contamination; and increase water clarity. We'll draw up a mission statement next month that will likely revolve around those goals. Then be ready to hear a lot about grasy waterways and buffer zones.
We didn't spend much money last night: the county might reimburse us for mileage, but that's it so far (Commissioner Pedersen didn't mention whether they'll discount my mileage if I bike in). But the committee did discuss the need for a paid employee. Some folks on the committee would prefer the job be handled by interns or other part-timers to save money. Others see a need for a full-time person who can stick around and build a little institutional memory. Some members of the old IWQC said their group ran out of steam in part because there's only so much one can ask of volunteers, and that water quality work requires a regular, long-term commitment worth a salary.
Should the committee decide (and the county commission agree) to hire a water quality employee, the cost would not come entirely from the county coffers. During the meeting, Jay Gilbertson said his organization, East Dakota Water Development District, could make matchin funds available. Martin Jarrett noted the Lake Madison Development Association had planned to offer $5000 to the IWQC to support an employee for the water project district that voters on Lakes Madison and Brant defeated last summer. Jarrett suggested the LMDA might consider offering a similar amount to support a county water official.
But before we try hiring someone, we need to define exactly what work we want to do. That work is pretty clear: there are too much nutrients, too much sediment, and too much fecal bacteria in our lakes and streams. Our lakes get too green and too silty. We need to protect our watercourses and wetlands to improve everyone's quality of life in Lake County.
We'll define that mission at next month's meeting. The Lake County Water Quality Committee plans to meet the fourth Thursday of every month. So next meeting will be Thursday, February 25, at 7 p.m. (site to be determined—stay tuned!).
In attendance at last night's meeting:
- Martin Jarrett, chair
- Chuck Robbins
- Charlie Stoneback
- Dale Droge
- Kent Petersen
- Craig Johanssen
- Scott Pedersen, representing the county commission
- Linda Hilde
- Michelle Goodale, district manager, Lake County Conservation District
- Brian Schultz, representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service district office headquartered here in Lake County
- Jan Nicolay
- Jay Gilbertson, manager of East Dakota Water Development District
- Charlie Johnson
- Walt Schaefer
- Larry Kotten
- Cory Allen Heidelberger